For quite some time many have heard of the dangers of microwave ovens. Specifically, that the use of microwave ovens may be linked to an increased risk for cancer. Understandably, this has caused a fair bit of consternation amongst people who are trying to live healthily, and who actively take steps to protect themselves from possible cancer causing agents.
As with any controversy, there has been a lot of pushing and pulling between people ‘in the know”, with health advocates arguing against the use of microwave ovens and corporate defenders arguing for their safety. So, what is the real story, and what is the truth about microwave cooking and your health?
Microwave Cooking in a Nutshell
Most of us have a general idea of how microwave ovens work, even if we do not understand the subtle mechanics of the process. In essence, microwaves agitate the molecules within our food, thereby heating it from the inside out and reducing cooking time by as much as 80%.
Microwave cooking is based on the principles of alternating currents, with the atoms and molecules within food being forced to reverse polarity up to 100 billion times a second. This friction is what produces the “heat” of microwave cooking.
Unfortunately, while the process makes cooking convenient, it has a definite downside. This violent molecular agitation results in what is called ‘structural isomerism’, where molecules are forcefully deformed or destroyed.
Traditional cooking methods, on the other hand, rely on good old thermal dynamics – the natural transfer of heat to cold. With traditional cooking methods, food is heated slowly from the outside in.
Now, microwave defenders will argue that traditional cooking methods also damage the inherent cellular structure of foods, and they are right to some degree.
That is why raw food advocates have a leg up when it comes to health and nutrition, particularly where cancer prevention is concerned. But not everyone has adopted a raw food diet, and for those people the manner in which they cook their food needs to be addressed.
Microwave Cooking and Nutrition
Most of the arguments defending microwave ovens focus on the safety of the devices themselves. They insist that the low levels of radiation used in microwave cooking pose no health risk. That may, or may not, be true.
But, even setting aside this more technical aspect of microwave cooking, there are further health concerns that deserve our attention. If good nutrition is the secret to good health, than what does microwave cooking actually do to our food? Well, therein lies the problem. Remember the ‘structural isomerism’ that we mentioned?
This violent cell damage destroys much of the inherent nutrition in foods. Cells are deformed or destroyed, and nutrients lost. Moreover, the process of microwave cooking actually creates carcinogenic compounds. When organic matter is penetrated by microwaves, radiolytic compounds are created.
The combination of these radiolytic compounds and the damaged/deformed cells in the food forces the body’s healthy cells to abandon their normal process of cellular oxidation for an anaerobic energy production based on glucose fermentation.
Anaerobic glucose fermentation actually helps cancerous cells to thrive. So, when you microwave that meal, you are not only destroying its life giving nutrients, you are also creating compounds that encourage the survival and proliferation of cancer cells.
Defenders of microwave cooking are quick to point out that traditional cooking methods also damage cells, and that, regardless of cooking method, overcooked or burnt food will be stripped of its nutritional value. This is true.
However, in the fight against cancer it is imperative to minimize any potential cancer risk. That is why raw fruits and vegetables should always form the basis of your healthy eating and your cancer fighting diet. That being said, when foods must be cooked, slow and steady wins the day. Research has proven that boiling or slow cooker methods produce the least amount of damage to the food.
Whereas microwave, charbroiling and high heat cooking do the most damage. Microwave cooking may be quick and easy, but the results may be equally hazardous to your health and well-being. When it comes to nutrition and cancer prevention, it is always advisable to choose tradition over convenience every time.